Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Schadenfreude

God love 'em, the WaPo made my day yesterday. Paul Schwartzman's article, "D.C. housing market's collapse lessens developers' swagger" describes the fall of the once mighty condo developer. The article's full of little nuggets from these former kings of the hill:

  • "The mood is a mood of humility and contriteness and self-reflection. There were a lot of people who were intoxicated by the times and the easy access to capital. A lot of them are gone."
  • "But we were just doing our job, taking on high-profile projects. I don't feel we were put in our place. We made some bad investments that didn't pan out. We lost money."
  • "You had a constant flow of money -- big money -- coming in... The idea was to make as much as possible and enjoy yourself."
  • "Of course, we got greedy... Everyone was greedy; we were aiming high... We're learning humility the hard way."
  • Developers remain adamant that they served Washington well, building wealth and reviving neighborhoods, even as they drove up prices and made some areas less affordable.
  • "We did wonderful things for the city... If the neighborhood's no longer completely down in the dumps, I also know it's harder to afford. It's an inevitable part of what we do. On a net basis, it was good for the city."

I don't know how to thank these guys for ratcheting up prices in the District so that you can't buy anything for less than $200,000. All those folks who bought condos in buildings like the Axis are thrilled to see their condos lose 20% of their value. And I'm sure all those folks who can no longer afford to live in the District are pleased, too. Might I add, as a taxpayer I'm simply delighted to bail out banks who lent money to these guys only to see their projects [and loans] go bust. Thankfully, none of the developers said they were doing God's work.

As I read this article, I concocted a fantasy where a few formerly-powerful, formerly-wealthy Bagatelle-brunching-bonus-bagging-too busy-to-meet-with-the-President-who-saved-our-asses Wall Street idiots confessed to the errors of their ways, as did these developers. I wonder if James Cameron would take a pitch for that movie as a sequel to "Avatar"? I've already got a title: "Avarice".

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